The Complete Works of Robert Burns
The following is from
The Complete Works of Robert Burns by Allan Cunningham:
Epitaphs, Epigrams, Fragments, &c
Index to Epitaphs, Epigrams, Fragments, &c
On the Author's Father
[William Burness merited his son's eulogiums: he was an
example of piety, patience, and fortitude.]
O ye whose cheek the tear of
Draw near with pious rev'rence
Here lie the loving husband's
The tender father and the
The pitying heart that felt for
The dauntless heart that
feared no human pride;
The friend of man, to vice alone
"For ev'n his failings lean'd
to virtue's side."
On R.A., Esq
[Robert Aiken, Esq., to whom "The Cotter's Saturday Night"
is addressed: a kind and generous man.]
Know thou, O stranger to the
Of this much lov'd, much
(For none that knew him need be
A warmer heart death ne'er made
On a Friend
[The name of this friend is neither mentioned nor alluded
to in any of the poet's productions.]
An honest man here lies at rest
As e'er God with his image
The friend of man, the friend of
The friend of age, and guide of
Few hearts like his, with virtue
Few heads with knowledge so
If there's another world, he
lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the
best of this.
For Gavin Hamilton
[These lines allude to the persecution which Hamilton
endured for presuming to ride on Sunday, and say, "damn it," in the presence of
the minister of Mauchline.]
The poor man weeps--here Gavin
Whom canting wretches blam'd:
But with such as he, where'er he
May I be sav'd or damn'd!
On Wee Johnny
Hic Jacet Wee Johnny
[Wee Johnny was John Wilson, printer of the Kilmarnock
edition of Burns's Poems: he doubted the success of the speculation, and the
poet punished him in these lines, which he printed unaware of their meaning.]
Whoe'er thou art, O reader,
That death has murder'd
An' here his body lies fu' low--
For saul he ne'er had ony.
On John Dove, Innkeeper, Mauchline
[John Dove kept the Whitefoord Arms in Mauchline: his
religion is made to consist of a comparative appreciation of the liquors he
Here lies Johnny Pidgeon;
What was his religion?
Wha e'er desires to ken,
To some other warl'
Maun follow the carl,
For here Johnny Pidgeon had
Strong ale was ablution--
Small beer, persecution,
A dram was memento mori;
But a full flowing bowl
Was the saving his soul,
And port was celestial glory.
On a Wag in Mauchline
[This laborious and useful wag was the "Dear Smith, thou
sleest pawkie thief," of one of the poet's finest epistles: he died in the West
Lament him, Mauchline husbands
He aften did assist ye;
For had ye staid whole weeks awa,
Your wives they ne'er had
Ye Mauchline bairns, as on ye
To school in bands thegither,
O tread ye lightly on his
Perhaps he was your father.
On a Celebrated Ruling Elder
[Souter Hood obtained the distinction of this Epigram by
his impertinent inquiries into what he called the moral delinquencies of Burns.]
Here souter Hood in death does
To h--ll, if he's gane
Satan, gie him thy gear to keep,
He'll haud it weel thegither.
On a Noisy Polemic
[This noisy polemic was a mason of the name of James
Humphrey: he astonished Cromek by an eloquent dissertation on free grace,
effectual-calling, and predestination.]
Below thir stanes lie Jamie's
O Death, it's my opinion,
Thou ne'er took such a blethrin'
Into thy dark dominion!
On Miss Jean Scott
[The heroine of these complimentary lines lived in Ayr, and
cheered the poet with her sweet voice, as well as her sweet looks.]
Oh! had each Scot of ancient
Been Jeany Scott, as thou art,
The bravest heart on English
Had yielded like a coward!
On a Henpecked Country Squire
[Though satisfied with the severe satire of these lines,
the poet made a second attempt.]
As father Adam first was fool'd,
A case that's still too
Here lies a man a woman rul'd,
The devil rul'd the woman.
On the Same
[The second attempt did not in Burns's fancy exhaust this
fruitful subject: he tried his hand again.]
O Death, hadst thou but spared
Whom we this day lament,
We freely wad exchang'd the
And a' been weel content!
Ev'n as he is, cauld in his
The swap we yet will do't;
Take thou the carlin's carcase
Thou'se get the soul to boot.
On The Same
[In these lines he bade farewell to the sordid dame, who
lived, it is said, in Netherplace, near Mauchline.]
One Queen Artemisia, as old
When depriv'd of her husband she
loved so well,
In respect for the love and
affection he'd show'd her,
She reduc'd him to dust and she
drank up the powder.
But Queen Netherplace, of a
When call'd on to order the
Would have eat her dear lord, on
a slender pretence,
Not to show her respect, but to
save the expense.
The Highland Welcome
[Burns took farewell of the hospitalities of the Scottish
Highlands in these happy lines.]
When Death's dark stream I ferry
A time that surely shall come;
In Heaven itself I'll ask no
Than just a Highland welcome.
On William Smellie
[Smellie, author of the Philosophy of History; a singular
person, of ready wit, and negligent in nothing save his dress.]
Shrewd Willie Smellie to
The old cock'd hat, the gray
surtout, the same;
His bristling beard just rising
in its might,
'Twas four long nights and days
to shaving night:
His uncomb'd grizzly locks wild
A head for thought profound and
Yet tho' his caustic wit was
His heart was warm, benevolent,
Verses Written On a Window of the Inn at Carron
[These lines were written on receiving what the poet
considered an uncivil refusal to look at the works of the celebrated Carron
We came na here to view your
In hopes to be mair wise,
But only, lest we gang to hell,
It may be nae surprise:
For whan we tirl'd at your door,
Your porter dought na hear us;
Sae may, shou'd we to hell's
Your billy Satan sair us!
[Burns wrote this reproof in a Shakspeare, which he found
splendidly bound and gilt, but unread and worm-eaten, in a noble person's
Through and through the inspir'd
Ye maggots, make your
But oh! respect his lordship's
And spare his golden bindings.
Lines on Stirling
[On visiting Stirling, Burns was stung at beholding nothing
but desolation in the palaces of our princes and our halls of legislation, and
vented his indignation in those unloyal lines: some one has said that they were
written by his companion, Nicol, but this wants confirmation.]
Here Stuarts once in glory
And laws for Scotland's weal
But now unroof'd their palace
Their sceptre's sway'd by other
The injured Stuart line is gone,
A race outlandish fills their
An idiot race, to honour lost;
Who know them best despise them
[The imprudence of making the lines written at Stirling
public was hinted to Burns by a friend; he said, "Oh, but I mean to reprove
myself for it," which he did in these words.]
Rash mortal, and slanderous
Poet, thy name
Shall no longer appear in the
records of fame;
Dost not know that old
Mansfield, who writes like the Bible,
Says the more 'tis a truth, Sir,
the more 'tis a libel?
[The minister of Gladsmuir wrote a censure on the Stirling
lines, intimating, as a priest, that Burns's race was nigh run, and as a
prophet, that oblivion awaited his muse. The poet replied to the expostulation.]
Like Esop's lion, Burns says,
sore I feel
All others' scorn--but damn that
Lines Written Under the Picture of the Celebrated Miss Burns
[The Miss Burns of these lines was well known in those days
to the bucks of the Scottish metropolis: there is still a letter by the poet,
claiming from the magistrates of Edinburgh a liberal interpretation of the laws
of social morality, in belief of his fair namesake.]
Cease, ye prudes, your envious
Lovely Burns has
True it is, she had one
Had a woman ever less?
Extempore in the Court of Session
[These portraits are strongly coloured with the
partialities of the poet: Dundas had offended his pride, Erskine had pleased his
vanity; and as he felt he spoke.]
He clench'd his pamphlets in his
He quoted and he hinted,
'Till in a declamation-mist
His argument he tint it:
He gaped for't, he grap'd for't,
He fand it was awa, man;
But what his common sense came
He eked out wi' law, man.
Collected Harry stood awee,
Then open'd out his arm, man:
His lordship sat wi' rueful e'e,
And ey'd the gathering storm,
Like wind-driv'n hail it did
Or torrents owre a linn, man;
The Bench sae wise lift up their
Half-wauken'd wi' the din,
The Henpecked Husband
[A lady who expressed herself with incivility about her
husband's potations with Burns, was rewarded by these sharp lines.]
Curs'd be the man, the poorest
wretch in life,
The crouching vassal to the
Who has no will but by her high
Who has not sixpence but in her
Who must to her his dear
friend's secret tell;
Who dreads a curtain lecture
worse than hell!
Were such the wife had fallen to
I'd break her spirit, or I'd
break her heart;
I'd charm her with the magic of
I'd kiss her maids, and kick the
Written At Inverary
[Neglected at the inn of Inverary, on account of the
presence of some northern chiefs, and overlooked by his Grace of Argyll, the
poet let loose his wrath and his rhyme: tradition speaks of a pursuit which took
place on the part of the Campbell, when he was told of his mistake, and of a
resolution not to be soothed on the part of the bard.]
Whoe'er he be that sojourns
I pity much his case,
Unless he's come to wait upon
The Lord their God, his Grace.
There's naething here but
And Highland cauld and hunger;
If Providence has sent me here,
T'was surely in his anger.
On Elphinston's Translations of Martial's Epigrams
[Burns thus relates the origin of this sally:--"Stopping at
a merchant's shop in Edinburgh, a friend of mine one day put Elphinston's
Translation of Martial into my hand, and desired my opinion of it. I asked
permission to write my opinion on a blank leaf of the book; which being granted,
I wrote this epigram."]
O thou, whom poesy abhors,
Whom prose has turned out of
Heard'st thou that groan?
proceed no further;
'Twas laurell'd Martial roaring
Inscription on the Headstone of Fergusson
[Some social friends, whose good feelings were better than
their taste, have ornamented with supplemental iron work the headstone which
Burns erected, with this inscription to the memory of his brother bard,
Born, September 5,
Died, Oct. 15,
No sculptured marble here, nor
"No storied urn nor animated
This simple stone directs pale
To pour her sorrows o'er her
On A Schoolmaster
[The Willie Michie of this epigram was, it is said,
schoolmaster of the parish of Cleish, in Fifeshire: he met Burns during his
first visit to Edinburgh.]
Here lie Willie Michie's banes;
O, Satan! when ye tak' him,
Gi' him the schoolin' o' your
For clever de'ils he'll mak'
A Grace before Dinner
[This was an extempore grace, pronounced by the poet at a
dinner-table, in Dumfries: he was ever ready to contribute the small change of
rhyme, for either the use or amusement of a company.]
O thou, who kindly dost provide
For every creature's want!
We bless thee, God of Nature
For all thy goodness lent:
And if it please thee, Heavenly
May never worse be sent;
But, whether granted or denied,
Lord bless us with content!
A Grace before Meat
[Pronounced, tradition says, at the table of Mrs. Riddel,
O thou in whom we live and move,
Who mad'st the sea and shore,
Thy goodness constantly we
And grateful would adore.
And if it please thee, Power
Still grant us with such
The friend we trust, the fair we
And we desire no more.
[The name of the object of this fierce epigram might be
found, but in gratifying curiosity, some pain would be inflicted.]
Sic a reptile was Wat,
Sic a miscreant slave,
That the very worms damn'd him
When laid in his grave.
"In his flesh there's a famine,"
A starv'd reptile cries;
"An' his heart is rank poison,"
On Captain Francis Grose
[This was a festive sally: it is said that Grose, who was
very fat, though he joined in the laugh, did not relish it.]
The devil got notice that Grose
So whip! at the summons, old
Satan came flying;
But when he approach'd where
poor Francis lay moaning,
And saw each bed-post with its
Astonish'd! confounded! cry'd
Satan, "By ----,
I'll want him, ere I take such a
Impromptu, To Miss Ainslie
[These lines were occasioned by a sermon on sin, to which
the poet and Miss Ainslie of Berrywell had listened, during his visit to the
Fair maid, you need not take the
Nor idle texts pursue:--
'Twas guilty sinners that he
Not angels such as you!
The Kirk of Lamington
[One rough, cold day, Burns listened to a sermon, so little
to his liking, in the kirk of Lamington, in Clydesdale, that he left this
protest on the seat where he sat.]
As cauld a wind as ever blew,
As caulder kirk, and in't but
As cauld a minister's e'er spak,
Ye'se a' be het ere I come back.
The League and Covenant
[In answer to a gentleman, who called the solemn League and
Covenant ridiculous and fanatical.]
The solemn League and Covenant
Cost Scotland blood--cost
But it sealed freedom's sacred
If thou'rt a slave, indulge
Written On a Pane of Glass, In the Inn at Moffat
[A friend asked the poet why God made Miss Davies so
little, and a lady who was with her, so large: before the ladies, who had just
passed the window, were out of sight, the following answer was recorded on a
pane of glass.]
Ask why God made the gem so
And why so huge the granite?
Because God meant mankind should
The higher value on it.
Spoken, On Being Appointed To the Excise
[Burns took no pleasure in the name of gauger: the
situation was unworthy of him, and he seldom hesitated to say so.]
Searching auld wives' barrels,
Och--hon! the day!
That clarty barm should stain my
But--what'll ye say!
These movin' things ca'd wives
Wad move the very hearts o'
Lines on Mrs. Kemble
[The poet wrote these lines in Mrs. Riddel's box in the
Dumfries Theatre, in the winter of 1794: he was much moved by Mrs. Kemble's
noble and pathetic acting.]
Kemble, thou cur'st my unbelief
Of Moses and his rod;
At Yarico's sweet notes of grief
The rock with tears had flow'd.
To Mr. Syme
[John Syme, of Ryedale, a rhymer, a wit, and a gentleman of
education and intelligence, was, while Burns resided in Dumfries, his chief
companion: he was bred to the law.]
No more of your guests, be they
titled or not,
And cook'ry the first in the
Who is proof to thy personal
converse and wit,
Is proof to all other
To Mr. Syme with a Present of a Dozen of Porter
[The tavern where these lines were written was kept by a
wandering mortal of the name of Smith; who, having visited in some capacity or
other the Holy Land, put on his sign, "John Smith, from Jerusalem." He was
commonly known by the name of Jerusalem John.]
O, had the malt thy strength of
Or hops the flavour of thy
'Twere drink for first of human
A gift that e'en for Syme were
Jerusalem Tavern, Dumfries.
[This Grace was spoken at the table of Ryedale, where to
the best cookery was added the richest wine, as well as the rarest wit: Hyslop
was a distiller.]
Lord, we thank and thee adore,
For temp'ral gifts we little
At present we will ask no more,
Let William Hyslop give the
Inscription on a Goblet
[Written on a dinner-goblet by the hand of Burns. Syme,
exasperated at having his set of crystal defaced, threw the goblet under the
grate: it was taken up by his clerk, and it is still preserved as a curiosity.]
There's death in the cup--sae
Nay, more--there is danger in
But wha can avoid the fell
The man and his wine's sae
[Burns had a happy knack in acknowledging civilities. These
lines were written with a pencil on the paper in which Mrs. Hyslop, of
Lochrutton, enclosed an invitation to dinner.]
The King's most humble servant
Can scarcely spare a minute;
But I am yours at dinner-time,
Or else the devil's in it.
The Creed of Poverty
[When the commissioners of Excise told Burns that he was to
act, and not to think; he took out his pencil and wrote "The Creed of Poverty."]
In politics if thou would'st
And mean thy fortunes be;
Bear this in mind--be deaf and
Let great folks hear and see.
Written in a Lady's Pocket-Book
[That Burns loved liberty and sympathized with those who
were warring in its cause, these lines, and hundreds more, sufficiently
Grant me, indulgent Heav'n, that
I may live
To see the miscreants feel the
pains they give,
Deal Freedom's sacred treasures
free as air,
Till slave and despot be but
things which were.
The Parson's Looks
[Some sarcastic person said, in Burns's hearing, that there
was falsehood in the Reverend Dr. Burnside's looks: the poet mused for a moment,
and replied in lines which have less of truth than point.]
That there is falsehood in his
I must and will deny;
They say their master is a
And sure they do not lie.
[This reproof was administered extempore to one of the
guests at the table of Maxwell, of Terraughty, whose whole talk was of Dukes
with whom he had dined, and of earls with whom he had supped.]
What of earls with whom you have
And of dukes that you dined
Lord! a louse, Sir, is still but
Though it crawl on the curl of
On Robert Riddel
[I copied these lines from a pane of glass in the Friars-Carse
Hermitage, on which they had been traced with the diamond of Burns.]
To Riddel, much-lamented man,
This ivied cot was dear;
Reader, dost value matchless
This ivied cot revere.
[Burns being called on for a song, by his brother
volunteers, on a festive occasion, gave the following Toast.]
Instead of a song, boys, I'll
give you a toast--
Here's the memory of those on
the twelfth that we lost!--
That we lost, did I say? nay, by
Heav'n, that we found;
For their fame it shall last
while the world goes round.
The next in succession, I'll
give you--the King!
Whoe'er would betray him, on
high may he swing;
And here's the grand fabric, our
As built on the base of the
And longer with politics not to
Be Anarchy curs'd, and be
And who would to Liberty e'er
May his son be a hangman, and he
his first trial.
On A Person Nicknamed the Marquis
[In a moment when vanity prevailed against prudence, this
person, who kept a respectable public-house in Dumfries, desired Burns, to write
Here lies a mock Marquis, whose
titles were shamm'd;
If ever he rise, it will be to
Lines Written on a Window
[Burns traced these words with a diamond, on the window of
the King's Arms Tavern, Dumfries, as a reply, or reproof, to one who had been
witty on excisemen.]
Ye men of wit and wealth, why
all this sneering
'Gainst poor Excisemen? give the
cause a hearing;
What are you, landlords'
rent-rolls? teasing ledgers:
What premiers--what? even
monarchs' mighty gaugers:
Nay, what are priests, those
seeming godly wise men?
What are they, pray, but
Lines Written on a Window of the Globe Tavern, Dumfries
[The Globe Tavern was Burne's favourite "Howff," as he
called it. It had other attractions than good liquor; there lived "Anna, with
the golden locks."]
The greybeard, old Wisdom, may
boast of his treasures,
Give me with gay Folly to
I grant him his calm-blooded,
But Folly has raptures to
The Selkirk Grace
[On a visit to St. Mary's Isle, Burns was requested by the
noble owner to say grace to dinner; he obeyed in these lines, now known in
Galloway by the name of "The Selkirk Grace."]
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thanket.
To Dr. Maxwell, On Jessie Staig's Recovery
[Maxwell was a skilful physician; and Jessie Staig, the
Provost's oldest daughter, was a young lady of great beauty: she died early.]
Maxwell, if merit here you crave
That merit I deny,
You save fair Jessie from the
An angel could not die.
[These lines were traced by the hand of Burns on a goblet
belonging to Gabriel Richardson, brewer, in Dumfries: it is carefully preserved
in the family.]
Here brewer Gabriel's fire's
And empty all his barrels:
He's blest--if, as he brew'd, he
In upright virtuous morals.
Epitaph on William Nicol
[Nicol was a scholar, of ready and rough wit, who loved a
joke and a gill.]
Ye maggots, feast on Nicol's
For few sic feasts ye've
And fix your claws in Nicol's
For deil a bit o't's rotten.
On The Death of a Lap-Dog, Named Echo
[When visiting with Syme at Kenmore Castle, Burns wrote
this Epitaph, rather reluctantly, it is said, at the request of the lady of the
house, in honour of her lap dog.]
In wood and wild, ye warbling
Your heavy loss deplore;
Now half extinct your powers of
Sweet Echo is no more.
Ye jarring, screeching things
Scream your discordant joys;
Now half your din of tuneless
With Echo silent lies.
On a Noted Coxcomb
[Neither Ayr, Edinburgh, nor Dumfries have contested the
honour of producing the person on whom these lines were written:--coxcombs are
the growth of all districts.]
Light lay the earth on Willy's
His chicken-heart so tender;
But build a castle on his head,
His skull will prop it under.
On Seeing the Beautiful Seat of Lord Galloway
[This, and the three succeeding Epigrams, are hasty squibs
thrown amid the tumult of a contested election, and must not be taken as the
fixed and deliberate sentiments of the poet, regarding an ancient and noble
What dost thou in that mansion
Flit, Galloway, and find
Some narrow, dirty, dungeon
The picture of thy mind!
On The Same
No Stewart art thou, Galloway,
The Stewarts all were brave;
Besides, the Stewarts were but
Not one of them a knave.
On The Same
Bright ran thy line, O Galloway,
Thro' many a far-fam'd sire!
So ran the far-fam'd Roman way,
So ended in a mire.
To The Same, On the Author Being Threatened With His Resentment
Spare me thy vengeance,
In quiet let me live:
I ask no kindness at thy hand,
For thou hast none to give.
On a Country Laird
[Mr. Maxwell, of Cardoness, afterwards Sir David, exposed
himself to the rhyming wrath of Burns, by his activity in the contested
elections of Heron.]
Bless Jesus Christ, O Cardoness,
With grateful lifted eyes,
Who said that not the soul alone
But body too, must rise:
For had he said, "the soul alone
From death I will deliver;"
Alas! alas! O Cardoness,
Then thou hadst slept for
On John Bushby
[Burns, in his harshest lampoons, always admitted the
talents of Bushby: the peasantry, who hate all clever attorneys, loved to handle
his character with unsparing severity.]
Here lies John Bushby, honest
Cheat him, Devil, gin ye can.
The True Loyal Natives
[At a dinner-party, where politics ran high, lines signed
by men who called themselves the true loyal natives of Dumfries, were handed to
Burns: he took a pencil, and at once wrote this reply.]
Ye true "Loyal Natives," attend
to my song,
In uproar and riot rejoice the
From envy or hatred your corps
But where is your shield from
the darts of contempt?
On a Suicide
[Burns was observed by my friend, Dr. Copland Hutchinson,
to fix, one morning, a bit of paper on the grave of a person who had committed
suicide: on the paper these lines were pencilled.]
Earth'd up here lies an imp o'
Planted by Satan's dibble--
Poor silly wretch, he's damn'd
To save the Lord the trouble.
Extempore Pinned on a Lady's Couch
["Printed," says Sir Harris Nicolas, "from a copy in
Burns's handwriting," a slight alteration in the last line is made from an oral
If you rattle along like your
Your speed will outrival the
But, a fly for your load, you'll
break down on the road
If your stuff has the rot,
like her heart.
Lines to John Rankine
[These lines were said to have been written by the poet to
Rankine, of Adamhill, with orders to forward them when he died.]
He who of Rankine sang lies
stiff and dead,
And a green grassy hillock hides
Alas! alas! a devilish change
[Written on the blank side of a list of wild beasts,
exhibiting in Dumfries. "Now," said the poet, who was then very ill, "it is fit
to be presented to a lady."]
Talk not to me of savages
From Afric's burning sun,
No savage e'er could rend my
As, Jessy, thou hast done.
But Jessy's lovely hand in mine,
A mutual faith to plight,
Not even to view the heavenly
Would be so blest a sight.
[One day, when Burns was ill and seemed in slumber, he
observed Jessy Lewars moving about the house with a light step lest she should
disturb him. He took a crystal goblet containing wine-and-water for moistening
his lips, wrote these words upon it with a diamond, and presented it to her.]
Fill me with the rosy-wine,
Call a toast--a toast divine;
Give the Poet's darling flame,
Lovely Jessy be the name;
Then thou mayest freely boast,
Thou hast given a peerless
On Miss Jessy Lewars
[The constancy of her attendance on the poet's sick-bed and
anxiety of mind brought a slight illness upon Jessy Lewars. "You must not die
yet," said the poet: "give me that goblet, and I shall prepare you for the
worst." He traced these lines with his diamond, and said, "That will be a
companion to 'The Toast.'"]
Say, sages, what's the charm on
Can turn Death's dart aside?
It is not purity and worth,
Else Jessy had not died.
On The Recovery of Jessy Lewars
[A little repose brought health to the young lady. "I knew
you would not die," observed the poet, with a smile: "there is a poetic reason
for your recovery;" he wrote, and with a feeble hand, the following lines.]
But rarely seen since Nature's
The natives of the sky;
Yet still one seraph's left on
For Jessy did not die.
Tam, the Chapman
[Tam, the chapman, is said by the late William Cobbett, who
knew him, to have been a Thomas Kennedy, a native of Ayrshire, agent to a
mercantile house in the west of Scotland. Sir Harris Nicolas confounds him with
the Kennedy to whom Burns addressed several letters and verses, which I printed
in my edition of the poet in 1834: it is perhaps enough to say that the name of
the one was Thomas and the name of the other John.]
As Tam the Chapman on a day,
Wi' Death forgather'd by the
Weel pleas'd he greets a wight
And Death was nae less pleas'd
Wha cheerfully lays down the
And there blaws up a hearty
His social, friendly, honest
Sae tickled Death they could na
Sac after viewing knives and
Death takes him hame to gie him
"Here's a bottle and an honest friend"
[These lines seem to owe their origin to the precept of
"The present moment is our ain,
The next we never saw."]
Here's a bottle and an honest
What wad you wish for mair,
Wha kens before his life may
What his share may be o' care,
Then catch the moments as they
And use them as ye ought, man?
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not ay when sought,
"Tho' fickle fortune has deceived me"
[The sentiment which these lines express, was one familiar
to Burns, in the early, as well as concluding days of his life.]
Though fickle Fortune has
She promis'd fair and
perform'd but ill;
Of mistress, friends, and wealth
Yet I bear a heart shall
support me still.--
I'll act with prudence as far's
But if success I must never
Then come misfortune, I bid thee
I'll meet thee with an
To John Kennedy
[The John Kennedy to whom these verses and the succeeding
lines were addressed, lived, in 1796, at Dumfries-house, and his taste was so
much esteemed by the poet, that he submitted his "Cotter's Saturday Night" and
the "Mountain Daisy" to his judgment: he seems to have been of a social
Now, Kennedy, if foot or horse
E'er bring you in by Mauchline
L--d, man, there's lasses there
A hermit's fancy.
And down the gate in faith
And mair unchancy.
But as I'm sayin', please step
And taste sic gear as Johnnie
Till some bit callan bring me
That ye are there,
And if we dinna hae a bouze
I'se ne'er drink mair.
It's no I like to sit an'
Then like a swine to puke and
But gie me just a true good
Wi' right ingine,
And spunkie ance to make us
And then we'll shine.
Now if ye're ane o' warl's folk,
Wha rate the wearer by the
An' sklent on poverty their joke
Wi' bitter sneer,
Wi' you nae friendship I will
Nor cheap nor dear.
But if, as I'm informed weel,
Ye hate as ill's the very deil
The flinty heart that canna
Come, Sir, here's tae you!
Hae, there's my haun, I wiss you
And gude be wi' you.
Mossgiel, 3 March, 1786.
To John Kennedy
Farewell, dear friend! may guid
luck hit you,
And 'mang her favourites admit
If e'er Detraction shore to smit
May nane believe him!
And ony deil that thinks to get
Good Lord deceive him!
Kilmarnock, August, 1786
"There's naethin' like the honest nappy"
[Cromek found these characteristic lines among the poet's
There's naethin like the honest
Whaur'll ye e'er see men sae
Or women, sonsie, saft an'
'Tween morn an' morn
As them wha like to taste the
In glass or horn?
I've seen me daezt upon a time;
I scarce could wink or see a
Just ae hauf muchkin does me
Ought less is little,
Then back I rattle on the rhyme,
As gleg's a whittle.
On The Blank Leaf of a Work by Hannah More
Presented By Mrs C----
Thou flattering work of
Still may thy pages call to mind
The dear, the beauteous donor;
Though sweetly female every
Yet such a head, and more the
Does both the sexes honour.
She showed her taste refined and
When she selected thee,
Yet deviating, own I must,
For so approving me!
But kind still, I'll mind
The giver in the gift;
I'll bless her, and wiss her
A Friend above the Lift.
Mossgiel, April, 1786.
To The Men and Brethren of the Masonic Lodge at Tarbolton
Within your dear mansion may
Or withering envy ne'er enter:
May secrecy round be the
And brotherly love be the
Edinburgh, 23 August, 1787.
[The tumbler on which these verses are inscribed by the
diamond of Burns, found its way to the hands of Sir Walter Scott, and is now
among the treasures of Abbotsford.]
You're welcome, Willie Stewart,
You're welcome, Willie Stewart;
There's ne'er a flower that
blooms in May,
That's half sae welcome's thou
Come bumpers high, express your
The bowl we maun renew it;
The tappit-hen, gae bring her
To welcome Willie Stewart.
My foes be strang, and friends
Ilk action may he rue it,
May woman on him turn her back,
That wrongs thee, Willie
Prayer for Adam Armour
[The origin of this prayer is curious. In 1785, the
maid-servant of an innkeeper at Mauchline, having been caught in what old
ballad-makers delicately call "the deed of shame," Adam Armour, the brother of
the poet's bonnie Jean, with one or two more of his comrades, executed a rustic
act of justice upon her, by parading her perforce through the village, placed on
a rough, unpruned piece of wood: an unpleasant ceremony, vulgarly called "Riding
the Stang." This was resented by Geordie and Nanse, the girl's master and
mistress; law was restored to, and as Adam had to hide till the matter was
settled, he durst not venture home till late on the Saturday nights. In one of
these home-comings he met Burns who laughed when he heard the story, and said,
"You have need of some one to pray for you." "No one can do that better than
yourself," was the reply, and this humorous intercession was made on the
instant, and, as it is said, "clean off loof." From Adam Armour I obtained the
verses, and when he wrote them out, he told the story in which the prayer
Lord, pity me, for I am little,
An elf of mischief and of
That can like ony wabster's
Jink there or here,
Though scarce as lang's a gude
I'm unco queer.
Lord pity now our waefu' case,
For Geordie's Jurr we're in
Because we stang'd her through
'Mang hundreds laughin',
For which we daurna show our
Within the clachan.
And now we're dern'd in glens
And hunted as was William
By constables, those blackguard
And bailies baith,
O Lord, preserve us frae the
That cursed death.
Auld, grim, black-bearded
O shake him ewre the mouth o'
And let him hing and roar and
Wi' hideous din,
And if he offers to rebel
Just heave him in.
When Death comes in wi'
And tips auld drunken Nanse the
Gaur Satan gie her a--e a clink
Behint his yett,
And fill her up wi' brimstone
Red reeking het!
There's Jockie and the hav'rel
Some devil seize them in a
And waft them in th' infernal
Straught through the lake,
And gie their hides a noble
Wi' oil of aik.
As for the lass, lascivious
She's had mischief enough
Weel stang'd by market, mill,
She's suffer'd sair;
But may she wintle in a widdie,
If she wh--re mair.
Index to Songs and Ballads